Ashburton cyclist Donald Sutton is hoping he doesn’t have to change gears in his race this Saturday. He will have to get off his 1936 wooden-rimmed wheels and move the chain himself to a different cog.
It is one of the joys of riding a road bike that is almost 85 years old.
Donald and fellow cyclists Brent Kircher and Ross Templeton will all be riding old bikes in the final of the Mid Canterbury Social Wheelers’ winter series.
Brent will be on a 1950 Arnst Special and Ross will ride a 1975 Italian-made Gios.
Donald said getting the old bikes out for a blast was a fun way to end the series. All
three will start together with the main pack leaving them plenty of space.
The winter series ride is a 16km out and back course on Fords Road, and Donald and his mates would usually cut it out in 25 minutes. They expect to be only five minutes longer on their old road cycles.
The 1950 Arnst Special was ridden by Bruce Arnst in an illustrious cycling career that spanned 50 years; he last rode the bike in 2000.
Bruce Arnst’s biggest win on the bike was in the 1952 running of the Christchurch to Waimate road race, in which he was the fastest junior in 5 hours 45.56 minutes and took home the New Zealand junior road champion’s title. Bruce has great memories of the race, which also featured his brother Reg and local rival Jim Tait.
‘‘The bike’s done thousands of miles, including at masters games,’’ Bruce said.
Donald’s 1936 Gloria cycle is also Italian-made and has wooden rims, which were used in the early days until the first aluminium rims appeared at the 1934 Tour de France.
Wooden rims stayed around though, with the best riders still using them as late as 1951.
He said there was a growing interest around the world in old road cycles, with special races even in New Zealand. In Saturday’s race he will be wearing a retro woollen jersey
and leather helmet, like the cyclists of old.
Donald said while wheels and bike frames were mostly the same, modern day gears, chains and brakes had advanced light years in terms of technology, though the old cycles were still a smooth ride.
He is planning to ride his Gloria in one gear on Saturday so he doesn’t have to manually put the chain on a different cog and retension it.
Race organiser Don Kirdy said it was important that the Tinwald Cycling Club look after its history, as the club was planning a centennial on Waitangi weekend 2023 and would be
showing off cycling gear collected over a century. Past and present cyclists should save the date.